Daily Life Disrupted, and Other Good News

A headline I just read:

NY calls in national guard to help curb outbreak

Seriously. And what is the national guard going to do? Round up viruses and take them to FEMA camps?

Another headline I just read:

US coronavirus cases pass 1000, at least 28 dead

So now the media and the anonymous online experts can tell us that the American “mortality rate” is nearly 3%! This is getting downright stupid. Is there anyone left out there with an ounce of common sense? Is that perhaps the most pernicious symptom of coronavirus infection: sudden mental deficiency.

Let me put those two headlines together in your mind for a moment, and then clarify the issue slightly for you. If you believe that the 1000 coronavirus cases that have been tested and confirmed in the U.S. represent all (or even most) of the actual cases out there, you are falling into the media-promoted numbers trap, and also the delusional “Do something to prevent this crisis!” trap.

The truth is that if there are 1000 identified cases, all over a country as enormous and populous as the United States, then there are untold tens of thousands of people already infected with this virus. (I’m being very modest in my estimate.) They have it right now, and they are passing it to their families, their friends, their coworkers. And there is nothing you can do to stop this. The genie, as they say, is out of the bottle. Way, way out. Globally out.

Italy, meanwhile, has decided to turn itself into a totalitarian police state in a panicked lunge at “stopping the spread of the coronavirus.” But their thinking is completely illogical. They are looking at the number of Italian deaths per confirmed cases — let’s say 460 to 9,000 — as evidence of how dangerous and scary this virus is. Rather, they should be looking at the number of deaths as evidence of how unhelpful it is to rely on confirmed cases anymore. The virus, obviously, has already spread so widely in Italy that “containing it” is out of the question. Therefore, talking about confirmed cases at this stage, as though they have any bearing on the real, unknowable number of infections, is ridiculous. The thing is ubiquitous now.

Am I saying all is lost, the sky is falling, so we should all just lie down and accept our fate? No, quite the contrary. I am saying that we have to start to get our heads around the fact that this virus is here to stay for a while, and that so far it has not proved to be as lethal as the early fears had led some to believe. Yes, people are dying as a result of this virus, but not in such numbers as to bring civilization to a halt, and not — so far, at least — in a manner that threatens to massively outstrip the common flu viruses that we have all had many times, and that kill hundreds of thousands of (mostly very old or otherwise weakened) human beings every year worldwide.

I also, tellingly, saw this increasingly typical headline a few days ago at The Hill:

Coronavirus fears disrupt daily life

Well, then, maybe this danged virus is good for something after all! If there is anything that deserves to be disrupted these days, it is “daily life.” If there is anything mankind needs at this moment, it is a shake-up that reminds us that “daily life,” as most of us define it (or rather have it defined for us), is little more than a well-regimented hodgepodge of mindless grind, mindless materialism, mindless self-gratification, mindless time-killing, and mindless slavishness. I can’t think of anything I’d like to disrupt more than the “daily life” of late modern humanity. Our “daily life” itself is the one thing that deserves to get hammered by the coronavirus.

Maybe this “disruption” — self-imposed as it may be — will drag a few dozen people on this planet out of our collective mental and moral malaise. Maybe those few will realize that a human being ought to be able to live, and live just as happily, with a little less income this year; that he ought to be able to find better ways to use his time than the “social life” and mass entertainments he relies on to keep him nominally awake; that being alone and quiet for a few hours a day is actually a good idea; and that we really should live all of our lives as though a deadly virus were lurking out there with our name on it — for in fact there is one. It is called Life.

Get the children out of those physical, moral, and intellectual virus breeding centers we euphemistically call schools. Stop living up to and beyond your income as though the rubber bands that keep your workaday treadmill running could never snap. Consider how much of what you do in “daily life” is a waste of time, and how many of the relationships with which you occupy your soul are just roadblocks or distractions. Remind yourself each day that you will not live forever — and neither will any of the people you care about.

And in the meantime, gain a new appreciation for the moments you have not let slip away into the vortex of “daily life” during your time on this planet, and take advantage of this reprieve from “daily life” to reevaluate everything that tends to bog us down all too often in ruts and gutters.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a reprieve?” you ask, incredulously. 

It is what we make of it. So far, we have collectively made it into a bogeyman, a monster under the bed, a source of anxiety attacks, a cause for hatred and suspicion of our fellow man, and a means of demeaning ourselves as panicking hysterics, people so desperate to cling to the routine of “daily life” that we are prepared to beg for a police state, for an end to social existence, and for the “authorities” to do whatever they have to do to make us feel safe and cozy in our delusions again — and then to politicize our weakness by daring to criticize our governments for failing to commandeer us all tyrannically enough.

Now that we know, thanks to the WHO finally stating the obvious, that this is “officially” a pandemic, it is time to stop the mad rush to self-abasement and start living like self-governing, self-respecting individuals again. 

If you think you are getting a flu, you should stay home until you are well. Employers should be urged to understand the financial losses they will suffer if everyone in their workplace catches a bad flu at the same time. People with older relatives ought to help them stay safe during flu season. 

And since the coronavirus is here to stay for a while, we should all start to look at the positives in that, even medically. The more we are exposed to it now, when it is not so deadly, the more dominant the weaker strains will become, as is common with the flu, and the more of us will develop antibodies during a mild case, as we do with all other flu viruses, and the lack of which is one reason this virus is hitting people harder than the common flu viruses.

Above all, however, it is time for us to calm down and look at the numbers more realistically, which means stop thinking “confirmed cases” means cases — it certainly does not, and the gulf between those two numbers grows wider every hour — and then start to reconfigure our lives according to a model in which the easy routine of “daily life” is no longer our ultimate standard for assessing the seriousness of problems, such that a disruption of that routine constitutes Armageddon.

Life is adaptation, flexibility, responses to problems, and the redemption of hardship through acts of will and acts of reason. Consider this pandemic a test case of your ability to withstand even more serious challenges. And I do not mean “next year’s even bigger virus.” Life’s biggest challenges are not physical. The fact that we are responding to this mere virus as though they were is in itself evidence of a much greater problem facing us all in late modernity. 

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